The slow line to high-speed rail

northeast corridor high speed rail

The proposed high-speed line along the Northeast Corridor.

Sometimes we have this transit fantasy in which the Capital Region is connected to other cities via high-speed rail. Headed for New York City? One hour. Boston? A one-magazine trip. Buffalo? Why? (We kid. Sort of.) It could have a profound effect on this region.

But the more this issue develops (or, you know, doesn't), we're thinking we might be traveling via jet pack before we get high-speed rail here.

Amtrak released a report on its high-speed rail aspirations for the Northeast Corridor yesterday. A few highlights:

Average speed: 140 mph
Washington to Boston: 3 hours
New York to Washington: a little more than 1.5 hours
Cost: $117 billion ($42 billion if it's all plunked down now)
Funding in place: no
Projected completion date: 2040

Yep, 30 years from now. And high-speed rail makes a lot sense along this corridor -- it's jammed with people and a lot of them already ride trains. Even so, the cost, planning and politics make the project a long shot. [The Transport Politic]

And despite all the talk about New York State hopping on board with high-speed rail, that's not looking likely, either.

Of course, things change. The political situation could shift. The economy could (somehow) get a lot better. The price of oil could way up.

Or not. So... where do we get fitted for a jet pack?

image: Amtrak

Comments

Great to see politics getting in the way of yet another good thing. You guys rock. Seriously.

Wouldn't building a rail system create jobs? Wouldn't the creation of such a thing stimulate the economy?

Speaking of the economy. In one of those rare moments when I watch tv, I saw something on PBS about Detroit. They are hoping a city-wide rail system will revitalize their economy.

Well, hang on here. I'm all for high-speed rail and better CDTA service and any other public transit improvements you can think of, but let's be realistic. Maybe it's feasible to have high-speed trains coming through Albany, maybe it's not. Obviously I'd like it to be, whether it's a NYC-Montreal line or a Boston-Chicago line or both. But let's consider: Right now you can hop on a train in Rensselaer and end up at Penn Station in about the same amount of time it would take to drive there, maybe a little more. Sure, it would be great if the trains ran faster, but it's not the end of the world if true HSR passes Albany by. We don't necessarily need Japanese-style bullet trains (though that would be mega-cool), we just need trains that are at least as fast as -- preferably faster than -- driving.

Now, if they were to improve the line out to Boston, that would be huge. I think it takes something like 6 hours now because the train has to crawl through the Berkshires. I could drive out there and back in the same amount of time.

$42B? Surely the national defense budget wouldn't notice too much if it were missing that amount.

30 years? Really? That's probably for total end-to-end coverage with all the little regional niceties (highway exit ramps to the stations, figuring out which TGI McFunsters gets exclusive rights to the food court, etc). I imagine the real meat of the project -- the rails themselves and 3-4 daily trains -- would be done sooner. You know, minus all those inevitable delays.

What! No stops in Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway?

Sigh. I'm going to Buffalo on business for the second week in a row. This time with a stopover in Rochester. This week, I'll spend at least ten boring, nonproductive hours on the Thruway. I love trains, always take the train when I go to NYC. Why not to Buffalo? Simple. The only train coming this way at normal hours leaves Buffalo at 1pm, gets to Albany at 9pm. When it's getting close to twice as long as driving, it's just not an option. If you could do Buffalo->Albany in 6 hours on the train, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

The rest of the country thinks Albany's just as much of a dump as buffalo.

Think about that the next time you go for a cheap shot.

There two ways to look at HSR connecting Albany to NYC:

1) You suddenly could live in Albany and work in NYC.
2) A lot of other folks could too.

Hey, maybe we'd finally get an Ikea.

$12 billion for Buffalo-Albany-NYC and $42 billion for Washington DC to Boston. Both are about the same distance, why such a huge difference in cost?

@pjt: Because it'll cost so much more for the new infrastructure between DC and Boston. You've got land acquisition costs (and that land is much more expensive along the coast than in upstate NY), possible tunneling costs in places, and I'm sure there's more than I'm not thinking of.

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